The card of apprenticeship, intense labor, and self-transformation, the 8 of Pentacles is seamlessly identified with the Sun in the 1st Decan of Virgo (the sign of Mutable Earth). It is traditionally represented as either a growing organism (such as a flowering tree within the Thoth) or as an artisan completely absorbed within his active production (as in the Rider-Waite). Dali’s rendition combines and layers these two figures, thereby underscoring this card’s message of concerted, measured growth.
Using the central detail from Courbet’s L’Atelier du peintre as his primary reference, Dali has positioned the image of the artist (Courbet), his model and his tableau within a semi-inverted, collaged patchwork of a tree, thereby combining both the organic qualities of the Thoth with the disciplined civilization and mastery of the Rider-Waite.
Dali’s “tree” appears to have three levels, like a multilevel dollhouse. The uppermost part consists of two ruddy orange saplings on either side of a portrait of a noble child. Dress dictates that it is circa the mid-1700s, and the features are such that I can’t help but associate it with a young Mozart. So far as I can tell, however, it is not. But being that the 8 of Pentacles is the card of the understudy and the prodigy, I searched for a link between Courbet and Mozart and uncovered the following Delacroix quote. I find it apropos:
I went to see the paintings by Courbet. I was astonished by the vigour and the relief of his vast picture; but what a painting! What a subject! The commonness of the forms would not matter; it is the commonness and uselessness of the thought which are abominable […] Oh Rossini! Oh Mozart! Oh geniuses inspired by all the arts, who draw from things only the elements that are shown to the mind! What would you say before these pictures?
Delacroix was a Romantic. Courbet was a Realist. In the quote above, Delacroix laments Courbet’s lack of emotionality and idealism, his coarseness of thought and vision. The Realist doesn’t draw inspiration from the abstract or timeless, but rather from the timely and historical. His topics fade. They fall in and out of vogue. But as Delacroix points out, his craftsmanship does not.
The 8 of Pentacles stresses study and technique, without which there could be neither genius nor prodigy, i.e. no Mozart. Craftsmanship is the very ground from which all art springs, the raw dirt and sweat that prefaces the apparent gleam of success. As such, “vigour and relief” are the order of the day. The 8 of Pentacles is a card of intense privacy and focus that promises later publicity and acclaim. L’Atelier du peintre is then the perfect central image for this card.
When you pull the 8 of Pentacles, batten the hatches, lose yourself in your labor, and refuse to be put off by any growing pains. Your discipline and commitment will eventually yield a pleasurable mastery and unique breadth of capacity. The fruit lies at the root, and it awaits!
**While all manner of comments are welcomed, any further information pertaining to art history, symbolism, myth, cultural reverberations, and Tarot card meanings that traverse decks or lend especial light to the Universal Dali deck, specifically, are actively sought and encouraged. I’m not using a book for these descriptions, so I may miss a reference that bears mention in relation to a card. If you know something, please share it! Conversely, I actively negate the astrological significations of the Trump cards within the Universal Dali deck in favor of the more traditional Thoth. My plan is to tackle the astrological significations of the Universal Dali Trumps and their overt divergence from all norms in one article… after having described each card. That’s a ways off. ;)
To visit the Tarot card library, click here.